Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps (E.A.M.C.) affect athletes when a muscle involuntarily contracts and does not relax.  These forcible contractions (when the muscle shortens) are usually linked to overexertion.


  • E.A.M.C.s commonly occur in single, multi-joint muscles utilized by basketball players (triceps, quadriceps, calves and hamstrings).


  • Fatigued muscles which are already shortened are more prone to cramping.


  • There is not unanimous agreement about the causes of E.A.M.C.s so watch for triggers that may impact you more than others.
Explanation Treatment
  • Drink water beyond thirst before exercise
Inadequate Oxygenation
  • Rapid deep breathing
  • Active recovery to displace lactic acid from muscles
  • Warm up and cool down thoroughly
  • Perform exercises to enhance flexibility
Exposure to Large Changes in Temperature
  • Wear layers before the game and on the bench
    Dress appropriately when exercising outdoors
Low Blood Salt Levels
  • Athletes prone to cramps could add 03.-0.7 grams of salt per litre consumed to their drinks

Prevention is Key

  • Once muscle cramps occur during a workout, practice or competition, it is difficult to return to action.
  • An E.A.M.C. may range in severity from a brief twinge to excruciating pain that lasts for several minutes until the muscle relaxes.
  • Be proactive by staying fit in order to better resist cramps:
    • Drink water evenly throughout the day
    • Develop flexibility and range of motion (including dynamic movement, massage and stretching)
    • Consume potassium, sodium and calcium before the activity
    • Fuel your energy stores with low Glycemic Index carbohydrates
    • Avoid sudden changes in intensity level when fatigued

Drink Beyond Thirst

  • While adequate hydration will not prevent all cramping, there is consensus that it is the best strategy to avoid E.A.M.C.s.
  • Elite basketball players can lose between 1.5 and 2.5 litres of fluid during a typical game or training session (0.8% to 1.8% of body weight).
    • When an athlete loses more than two to three percent of their body weight, they are susceptible to cramps.
    • Weigh yourself before and after a typical session to understand how much fluid you lose while playing: Fluid Loss = Starting Weight – Ending Weight + Fluids Consumed
  • If the body is dehydrated, nerve endings can become overexcited and spontaneously discharge, creating a muscle cramp.
  • Sip fluids on a regular schedule before competitions and intense workouts, even if you are not thirsty.
    • Athletes can tolerate a fluid intake of 1.8L per hour.
    • Carrying a water bottle throughout the day serves as a reminder for athletes to hydrate before exercising.

Eating Well

  • Low Glycemic Index carbohydrates will last throughout long exercise periods.
    • Good low G.I. choices include: whole wheat pasta, multi-grain bread, brown rice, oats, apples, carrots.
    • Avoid processed grains and refined sugars.
  • A well-balanced diet should include vitamins and nutrients.
    • Sodium: cereal, cottage cheese, beans.
    • Calcium: dairy products, soy, orange juice.
    • Potassium: bananas, green leafy vegetables, yogurt.

Other Treatment

  • A succession of quick deep breaths introduces oxygen to the body relieves E.A.M.C.s caused by lactic acid.
  • Soft tissue massage, stretching and application of heat can stimulate blood flow to the cramped muscle and alleviate pain.
  • Although consuming a sports drink/gel, banana or salt tablet may help, electrolytes require thirteen minutes to be absorbed into the system.
  • Frequent cramping may require a visit to a sports medicine doctor.

Improve Personal Fitness

  • Athletes who have developed their aerobic energy systems will be less fatigued towards the end of games and practices and less likely to cramp.
  • Rest properly between physical activity sessions so that the body can recover.
    • Active recovery during and after exercise disperses lactic acid.
    • o Do not exercise – or make players exercise – to the point of exhaustion.
  • Push yourself during training to simulate intense games.
    • If practices are as hard as games, the body will not need to adjust when facing tough competition.
  • Warm-up thoroughly; even if you are not a starter you must be ready to enter the game when required.

List of Resources

  • BallnRoll. (2014, June 10). How To Prevent Muscle Cramps While Playing Basketball. Retrieved May 20, 2015, from BallnRoll: http://www.ballnroll.com/fitness?post=1199.
  • Miller, K. C., Stone, M. S., Huxel, K. C., & Edwards, J. E. (2010, July). Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps: Causes, Treatement, and Prevention. Sports Health, 2(4), 279-283.
  • Weber, K. (2008, January 18). Cramping. Retrieved May 20, 2015, from Ask the Docs: http://www.nba.com/bulls/news/askdocs_080118.html.